Friday, August 19, 2011

Abby Kept Away From Me

I remember Abby's reaction when I opened my bedroom door after studying for an hour or so and realizing Abby was just outside my door waiting for me. I don't remember exactly when this story took place. It must have been in my third year in grad school but I don't know what I was studying for. I did take one class in my third year, Heterocycles, but I only took it pass/fail so I didn't study as hard for it had I taken the class for a grade. Abby was less than a year old.

Nevertheless, I was back in my room studying by myself. After an hour or so, I took a break and low and behold, Abby was sitting immediately by my door loyally waiting for me. I looked down at Abby and her whole body started to wiggle because she was wagging her tail so hard. The look on her face can best be described as "happy." It seemed like her eyes were smiling. She was so happy to see me. I didn't realize she wanted to see me or else I would have let her in.

From then on, I kept my door slightly cracked so Abby could come in and see me. I felt bad she was alone by her baby-girl-self. I thought she was so sweet the way she missed me so much.

What distinguished that moment from many others in Abby's puppy days was the realization that I was more to Abby than her plaything or occasional caretaker. She missed me and was becoming attached to me.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Needing a New Screen For Porch Because of Abby

The screen is at the left.

In a previous entry, I noted how we dealt with Abby sneaking out of the fence. When she was a puppy, she was still small enough to squeeze through the fence post and the house, and sometimes she would do just that: squeeze through. We easily fixed that problem by putting a cynder block in front of the gap. Besides, later on, Abby's growth obviated the need to block the gap. She would become too big to even put her Baby Girl head through the gap, let alone her whole body.

Unfortunately, we had to face another consequence of Abby's growth. She was a powerful, nitro-fueled Labrador puppy who we had a hard time controlling. She still had separation anxiety issues, which I have noted elsewhere. But even when she was outside, her separation anxiety still popped up now and then.

If someone she knew and liked was in the screen porch and Abby was in the back, Abby would grow extremely excited and could not contain herself. She would burst through the screen as if it were not there. After a few episodes of this, the screen porch was rendered useless. It wasn't meant to contain Labrador puppies, just bugs.

My mom hired a handyman to reinforce the screen with a high density plastic barrier able to withstand Abby's excitement. I know the description of the plastic barrier doesn't sound flattering, but the guy did a good job and it has stood strong for the last 15 years. It cost a few hundred dollars. Our Baby Girl's destruction cost us quite a bit when she was a puppy. She was wild as hell.

That part of Abby's growth, the rambunctionsness and spontaneity, irritated me at the time, but I miss it now. I was proud when she matured but her wild days did have some redeeming qualities. It made things fun, frustrating and unpredictable.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Abby Wouldn't Wear Two Leashes

Before I explain how I knew Abby would not wear two leashes, I'll give a background on our walking routine. Normally, I initiated the process by asking them if they wanted to "go walk" or "go pee-pee." Almost everytime, the Babies would hurry down the hall towards the door. While they were waiting for me, I'd put on my shoes. If it was cold, a coat; and if it was raining, a hat. I'd grab the leashes resting on the bookcase along with my keys and put the leashes on the Babies.

The Babies learned not to fidget when I put the choke collar on. I'd slip it over their heads, after which, we would go out the door and on our way. Normally, the event went off without any hitches unless a neighbor caught me talking to the Babies or something like that.

However, I have a tendency to be absent minded. I've put the milk in the kitchen cabinets or dirty dishes in the bathroom sink. Stuff like that. It was during one of these pre-walk routines when my absent mindedness surfaced and Abby snapped me back to reality.

Forgetting about putting a leash on Abby, I tried to put a second leash on her, but she moved her head to the side. I tried again. Abby moved her head down. On the third try, she turned her head around. She would not let me put on the second leash-absolutely refused.

I became agitated at this point and gave Abby a direct order to stay still. I realized then that she already had a leash on. In her own way, she was trying to tell me. What amazed me was that she knew something was different and out of place. Abby was smart enough to not only realize something was wrong but she found a way to tell me about it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Drug Dealers and The Babies Didn't Mix

There are a couple of nightclubs where I used to live. There was some recreational drug use and subsequently, some drugs sold in the area. The sellers were around most of the day. They would hang around the entrance of the clubs, the sidewalks by the clubs or even the street corners. When I moved into my condo, the sellers were bold and blatant with their activity. The only way for them to be any more obvious would be if they put a sandwich board on with the words "Drugs for Sale." Considering that the Raleigh Police Department's headquarters was a block away, these guys were flouting the law. I didn't approve of what they did, but I had to admire their nerve.

After a while, I became familiar with their faces but never did I acknowledge them. And they didn't acknowledge me, either. We were in separate worlds.

I noticed that the dealers did not like my dogs. If they were walking towards us on the sidewalk, they would step off the sidewalk, go across the street and keep continue going wherever they were going. It couldn't have been more obvious that they were avoiding me.

There are some who might say "How do you know they were selling drugs?" Well, I had a pretty good hunch. About a year or two later, the cops started cracking down on the drug selling. Initially, the cops would stand at the sidewalk and street corners the sellers stood at. This merely shifted the sellers further away from the clubs. I also saw cops doing stake-outs in unmarked cars a block away. Lastly, the guys avoiding the Babies didn't look "Fabulous" enough to be patrons at the nearby clubs. (Those clubs are gay bars.)

After the police crackdown, the guys who I suspected of dealing went away.

Even though I thought of my Babies as harmless sweethearts, obviously not everyone shared my affection for them. It's OK. I had more than enough love for the Babies to make up for any ill-will some may have had for them.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The 16' Retractable Leash

This is about the first time I used a long, retractable leash with the Babies. Yes, I’m one of those assholes who had those leashes extending from one end of the block to the other. And I don’t give a crap what anyone thinks. Those leashes made walking two big dogs much easier. They had more freedom to move around. It gave them some privacy and space when they used the bathroom. They had more room to explore on the grounds by the sidewalk. Granted, I do not suggest using such leashes for every dog. If a dog is too unmanageable and uncontrollable, another type of leash should be chosen in place of these long retractable ones.

The first time I used one with the Babies was during our evening walk. I still used the choke collar I had used with the shorter leashes. I kept the leash at about 3 or 4 feet at first. The Babies didn’t notice anything different initially. We made our way down the hall and out front to the sidewalk. I still kept the leash at a short distance. When we got to the intersection, we stopped at the light. I thought we’d try out the extension on the way across the street. About halfway across the street, I un-clicked the lock so the leash could freely extend. Immediately, I could feel the separation between me and the Babies. In tandem, their little legs start to speed up as they realized their new found freedom. They kept hustling until the leash went as far as they could go. It was as if the Babies were thinking “We’re free!!”

They didn’t question or balk at their new roaming abilities. They explored and sniffed around at things they had not experienced before. I quickly learned how to retract the leash such as when I needed to keep close control over the Babies. I tended to shorten the leash when on the sidewalks but extend it inside the park.

Those leashes were worth every penny I spent on them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Does Anyone Admit to Being the Crazy Neighbor?

I won’t admit that I was the crazy neighbor. However, I will admit that my neighbors probably thought I was crazy or at least eccentric. For example, on one day, I was about to take the Babies out for a walk to the park. I was at the door putting my shoes on and about to put the leashes on the Babies. I must say now that people talking on one side of those condo doors can be clearly heard on the other side as if the door wasn’t there at all. Fortunately, the noises from the hall dissipate rapidly on going from the hall to the living room and vice versa.

Unfortunately for me, I was standing right beside the door so if anyone was on the other side, my voice could be easily and clearly heard by someone else.  I was chattering to the Babies as if they could understand everything I said—like they were people. I was probably telling them how much I loved them or how pretty they were. Of course I was using the tone one would use for addressing babies, real human babies. I should also note that anyone who lived in that building for a while knew that I lived alone. So, if anyone outside of my door heard me talking, that person would know that I was not talking to another person.

After I said what I had to say to the Babies and put the leashes on them, I swung the door open. A couple from the other end of the first floor was walking down the hall near my door. In unison, they moved their eyes from my door to a spot on the floor several feet in front of them. They kept walking by deliberately avoiding eye contact with me and locking there stare at some invisible spot on the ground. Their avoidance was obvious. The guy did smirk a little.

I knew what they were thinking. They thought I was crazy as hell. Their amusement was palpable, too. They knew I lived alone and that I was talking at length to no one but my dogs. I’ve had those awkward feelings myself with people who were not quite all there. We all have, such as with the really smelly guy on a bus or a park bench talking at length to a phantom conjured up in his head. You want to look, know you shouldn’t but you do anyway.

I think that is how my neighbors felt on that awkward afternoon several years ago. They were eavesdropping on someone’s privacy and were quite entertained by it until they got caught. One doesn’t have to be a mind reader to know that they thought I was at least a little weird or even a little crazy. I lala’d my Babies a whole lot and didn’t give a shit who knew.